Remarks at Heather Wilson for Congress Luncheon
Crowne Plaza Pyramid Hotel
Albuquerque, New Mexico
April 29, 2002
11:44 A.M. MDT
Gosh, thanks for that warm welcome. It's great to be back in New Mexico. I'm
glad to know my Texas passport is still active. (Laughter.) I'm here because
it is very important for the people of New Mexico to send Heather Wilson back
to the United States Congress. (Applause.)
I'm here to give my whole-hearted support to her candidacy. Before I spend a
little time fleshing that out, I want to say something about the senior Senator
from New Mexico. There's no finer American in the United States Senate than
Pete Domenici. (Applause.) I'm proud to call him friend -- and I'm proud to
get lectured by him all the time. (Laughter.) It seems like he's always got
important issues on his mind: the labs, mental health parity. But he is a great
ally and a really fine Senator.
I'm also honored to have served with -- been the President at the same time
that Joe Skeen was the United States Congressman from another congressional
district here in New Mexico. (Applause.) We're going to miss old Joe, but I'm
confident he still has my address, and willing to give -- that's good. But thank
you for your service. I want to thank John Dendahl, the party chairman of the
Republican Party of New Mexico, and all the party leaders who are here.
I particularly want to say something about the grass roots, the people who work
the phone banks, and lick the envelopes, and do all the work necessary to keep
people like me and Pete and Heather in office. And I want to thank you for your
loyalty; I want to thank you for your passion for our political party; and I
want to thank you for the endless hours you put on our behalf. (Applause.) I
want to thank the Lt. Governor and all the state officials who are here.
And I want to thank you all for supporting Heather. Here's the way I feel: Anytime
you find somebody who brings such class and dignity to a political office, we
as Americans owe our support to her. And Heather Wilson brings a lot of class,
and a lot of dignity. (Applause.)
You know, in Washington there's a lot of -- there can be a lot of noise, a lot
of shrill voices, people who are -- people up there sometimes are the ones who
like to divide people into camps and call names and point fingers. They think
that's effective. And it's such a wonderful contrast to have the quiet dignity
and the competence of Heather Wilson in the United States Congress. It is so
good and refreshing, and good for our democracy, and good for our country, that
people like Heather are willing to serve. She can get things done for New Mexico.
The thing I appreciate, Heather, is she is there for the right reason: to serve
the people, to represent the people of New Mexico. (Applause.) And I'm proud
of our political party, make no mistake about it. But I'm proud of the fact
that Heather puts our country first, that she understands the importance of
our nation and what it stands for.
I remember so well, going to Griegos Elementary with Heather. She said, you
come to my district; I want you to go, first and foremost, to an elementary
school. Because she understands that when we educate our children, the American
Dream will be extended to every neighborhood. I appreciate that spirit. (Applause.)
She told me that the day I signed the No Child Left Behind legislation, which
was a significant piece of educational reform, supported both by Heather and
by Pete, that she went back to Griegos. And it was a fitting place for her to
go, because this is a piece of legislation which says that America will refuse
to condemn any child to failure. It is a piece of public -- legislation that
says to our public schools, we'll set high standards for every child -- I mean
every child -- that we trust the local people to chart the path to excellence,
and that we refuse to accept a system that simply shuffles children through.
And the beneficiaries of this type of mentality are going to be the children
who go to Griegos. And Heather knows that. And I want to thank you for your
strong support on education reform. It means so much to this part of the world,
to all our country, that we got this legislation done.
I also appreciate so very much Heather's values. You know, we're coming in;
I said -- I'm trying to get her to talk about issues -- she wants to talk about
Little League baseball. (Laughter.) Here I am, trying to tell her what's going
on the world, which we eventually got to, but the first thing on her mind was
to let me know that her son and Jay's son is a Little League player, and how
proud of the fact that she was that the lad suits up, gives it his all, occasionally
gets a base hit. Must be Jay's genes. (Laughter.) But she loves her family.
She loves her husband. And I think that's also an important trait for anybody
to serve our public well. (Applause.)
And, Jay, I want to thank you for patience and understanding and support for
this fine lady, who serves New Mexico in the United States Congress. I also
want to thank Heather for her strong support for Kirtland Air Force Base. People
got to -- (applause.) I think it's important, when people start heading in these
voting booths next fall, that -- particularly in this part of the world -- that
they understand Heather's influence, that she's making a difference, that she's
getting things done for this part of the world. And one of the things that she's
good at is understand the importance for national defense. Kirtland Air Force
Base is an incredible part of that national defense of the United States.
I remember so well campaigning here in New Mexico, and then coming back to the
Barelas Job Opportunity Center, which she and Pete helped get started. Pete
and Heather were telling me that there's been 6,000 people that have been helped
in this job center, people to be able to find work. And I want to thank you
all for inviting me back for -- when we opened up that facility, and I want
to thank you for leading on that.
But jobs is an incredibly important part of Heather's agenda, and it's an incredibly
important part of mine. And it -- here's the way I feel about it: If anybody's
looking for work and can't find work, we've got a job problem. And I know the
numbers are beginning to look better, but, you know, I leave the numbers for
the statisticians and the bean counters. We're practical people that's -- got
to keep asking the question, How do we keep America employed, and how do we
keep the job base growing?
And one other thing Heather understands is the role of government is not to
create wealth, but to create an environment in which small businesses can grow
and the entrepreneurs of America can flourish. (Applause.) And we campaigned
on the idea that if you let people have more of their own money -- I emphasize
"their own money" -- (applause) -- that there would be more money
to spend, more demand for goods and services; and with more demand for goods
and services, somebody will produce the goods and services. And when they produce
the goods and services, it means somebody is going to find work.
This tax cut that I campaigned on and fought for, that Pete and Heather and
Joe supported, was the right thing for America at this point in our history.
(Applause.) And it has made a big difference in helping people find work.
Heather also understands the need to have fairness when it comes to Medicare.
And she is going to take a leadership role in helping to provide prescription
drug coverage within the Medicare system, so our seniors do not go without.
It's an important initiative, and thank goodness she's willing to lend her talent
to get this job done. She's close to the Speaker on this issue, and when you're
close to the Speaker on this issue, you have a good chance to make a significant
difference for the elderly of not only New Mexico, and the United States of
There's a lot more issues that we could talk about where Heather has taken a
leadership role, but I do want to talk about one more, and that is energy. Our
nation has not had an energy policy. And I came along with the Vice President
and I tasked him to develop an energy policy, one that recognizes that technology
is going to help us conserve better. And we need to conserve more. We need to
be wiser about how we use our energy. And part of our vision and part of our
plan and part of our initiative is to make sure that we're able to get power
to the consumer across a modern infrastructure, as opposed to one that is now
aging and decrepit.
But we also recognize that it is important for us to find more energy in America,
that we ought to produce more. We have a national security problem. Over 50
percent of our energy comes from other countries. And some of those countries
don't like us. Some of them aren't our friends. And so for the sake of our national
security, and for the sake of our economic security, we need an energy bill.
One passed the House, and I want to thank Heather for her leadership. One has
passed the Senate, and I appreciate Pete for his leadership. And now it's time
for Congress to act and get a bill to my desk which I can sign. (Applause.)
I mentioned national security, and that's on my mind these days. Every morning
when I'm there in Washington, I walk into the beautiful Oval Office and read
a threat assessment prepared by our intelligence agencies. And I send a list
of what we're learning and what we think, what we know about an enemy that still
wants to hit America. So every day I'm reminded that my biggest task and most
important job is to protect the homeland.
And we're making progress. We're still a vulnerable nation. And the reason we're
vulnerable is because we've got an enemy that hates us, an enemy that is nothing
but cold-blooded killers. That's all they are, as far as I'm concerned. We're
doing a much better job of sharing information -- of gathering information and
sharing it. To put it in Midland, Texas terms, any time we get a hint, we're
following up on it. Every time we get a sense that something may be about to
happen, or somebody is trying to attack a U.S. citizen or facility, you just
need to know we're responding. Our number one priority of our law enforcement
agencies around America is to run down every lead, every hint.
We've also got a strategy here at home to deal with bioterrorism. And that's
a real threat to America, but we must be prepared, if such a threat were to
come. We've got an initiative to make sure that our borders are more secure.
We've got to do a better job at the INS of understanding who is coming into
our country, why they're coming into our country, and how long they intend to
stay in our country. And if they're going to be here for a short period of time,
are they actually leaving our country? For the sake of our national security,
we've got to reform the INS and bring it up to speed and make it a modern agency
with the capacity to gather and disperse information in a modern way.
But the best way to secure the homeland for America is to run these killers
down, one by one, and bring them to justice. (Applause.) And it's not going
to be easy, nor is it going to happen as quickly as some might like. I do not
have a calendar on my desk that says, at such and such a time you will stop.
You, President Bush, on such and such a date will have run out the string and
it's time for you to quit -- that calendar doesn't exist. Because my mind-frame
is this: When it comes to defending our freedoms, no matter how long it takes,
that's exactly what this country is going to do.
We're not going to forget what happened on September the 11th. We've learned
more about the enemy. (Applause.) We learned a good lesson: that two oceans
can no longer protect us; that because we're an open society, we're a vulnerable
society. But we're not going to allow our openness and our love for freedom
to go away. I mean, one of the things the enemy wants to do is to say, you know,
since you love freedom, you're under attack. And I guess the corollary is, is
that, get rid of your freedoms. But that's not the way we think in America.
(Applause.) When it comes to defense of our country, when it comes to our defense
and defending our values, we're plenty tough. And that's the way it's going
to be -- much to the chagrin of the killers.
I have unleashed the United States military, and they have not let us down.
For those of you who have got relatives in the military, a son or a daughter
or a husband or a wife, I want to thank you on behalf of a grateful nation for
their sacrifice and your understanding. (Applause.)
I have submitted a budget to the United States Congress which makes a priority
of our national defense. And I expect that -- the appropriations process to
pass the defense bill first. In times of war, I ought to have the defense appropriations
bill on my desk as soon as possible. We don't need any people playing politics
with the defense of the United States of America. (Applause.)
You know, when I was campaigning in Chicago one time, they said, would you ever
have a deficit? I said, I hope not. I said, I think it's important for us to
make -- to work hard to have a balanced budget. But I said, yes, I'd have a
deficit if I were the President only if we were at war, or in a recession, or
in times of emergency. I didn't think I was going to draw the trifecta. (Laughter.)
But when it comes time to defending our freedom, we need to understand, even
though the price of freedom is high, it is not too high. It is never too high.
And that's what the Congress has got to say. (Applause.) And that's what the
Congress has got to know.
The other thing that's important for us is to uphold the doctrines that I lay
out, or the country lays out. And when we said, if you harbor a terrorist, you're
just as bad as a terrorist, I meant it. And the Taliban found out exactly what
Now, one of the things that's important for our fellow citizens to understand
is that we're not seeking revenge. We're seeking justice. And when we went into
Afghanistan, we went in not as conquerors -- we weren't interested in conquering
anybody -- we went in as liberators. And I'm so proud of the fact that not only
is this nation tough and strong, but that we care deeply about young girls who
had never been to school in their lives, and we're proud to have freed the people
of Afghanistan from the clutches of one of the most barbaric regimes in the
history of mankind. (Applause.)
We've got a lot of work to do there. And so you just need to know that our military
is going to be there for a while. I mean, they've got these little pockets of
these killers showing up and we're just going to have to find them, keep chasing
them down. We've got work to help this country rebuild her military, so that
she can defend herself. We've got work about -- to make sure that the humanitarian
aid and assistance that we're so generously providing is effective. So we'll
be there for a while. We'll be there for a while.
And another reason why we're going to be there is because the second phase of
this war -- our strategy has been to deny sanctuary to any of the killers in
anywhere else, in any other country. So when we find a country that looks like
a safe haven for them, a place where they may try to bunch up and train, or
set up a logistical command center, we're shutting them down. We've got a great
coalition, thanks to our Secretary of State and my administration. We're nurturing
that coalition. We're reminding them that to be a member of this coalition,
you've got to perform. We don't need any sweet talk, what we want is results.
And so we're denying sanctuary to al Qaeda killers, and terrorist killers. And
so therefore, if they have no sanctuary, it's more likely they'll remain in
Afghanistan, which is fine with us, because that's where we're prepared to chase
I wish I could tell you that -- what the timetable is going to be. I can't.
But the good news is the American people don't expect a timetable. They're unified,
and for that I'm grateful. We are strong, and for that I'm grateful. We're a
disciplined nation when it comes to our defense, and for that I'm incredibly
grateful, as well.
You know, this war on terror is bigger than just an organization. It's certainly
bigger than one person. We've also got to deal with -- and we will -- and confront,
and we will, the fact that nations -- there are nations in this world who hate
America who are developing and have developed weapons of mass destruction. And
a nightmare scenario for future generations of freedom-loving people is to allow
one of these nations to team up with a terrorist organization so that they could
blackmail America and our friends and hold us hostage. And you just need to
know I'm just not going to let that happen.
History has called us to action. History has given this chance -- this nation
a chance to lead. And that's exactly what we're going to do, so long as I'm
the President of the United States. (Applause.)
I'm pleased with the support I'm getting in Congress. I want to thank Pete and
Heather and Joe for their strong support for the national defense of the United
States. I am going to make sure that as the budget process goes on, that I will
defend the priorities that I have submitted to Congress, primarily our national
defense and homeland security -- and make a clear case to Congress not to overspend,
to show some fiscal discipline and some restraint; that we've got plenty of
money to fund our priorities. We've just got to make sure we stay focused on
I also want you to know that there are a way for every one of us to help join
in this war against terror to fight evil. And the way I like to put it is go
love a neighbor like you'd like to be loved yourself. That if you want to fight
evil, do some good. That if you want to show the killers that we're not going
to be intimidated, feed the homeless, mentor a child, start a program, a faith-based
program in your church or synagogue or mosque, all aimed at showing somebody
who may have fallen to the depth of despair that somebody loves them, that there
is a good and gracious God that loves them, and you can be a messenger on behalf
of the good and gracious God to help somebody in need.
And that's what's happening around America. This is a unique moment, because
the character of our country is shining through. I mean, we're tough, but we're
compassionate. We're strong, but we want to help the weak. And by doing so,
the country is an amazing place for people who are fortunate enough to become
an American. When people see our true character, they're amazed that we're a
welcoming society. It doesn't matter how you were born or where you're raised,
it doesn't matter if your mother or dad speaks Spanish and not English, because
you're welcome in America. This country is available for you and your children.
We need to show the world that when they hit us, they not only awakened our
military and our strength and our resolve, they also awakened a deep and abiding
compassion in our fellow human beings, who may not be as fortunate as we are.
I want to thank you all, if you're doing that. If you're not, I call you to
do it. I ask you, on behalf of the country, to redouble your efforts, or to
begin your efforts to help somebody who might hurt, to love somebody who needs
love. And in so doing, you help strengthen America. You help us defeat an enemy
that tried to change our country.
It is such an honor to be the President of the greatest nation on the face of
the Earth. I'm honored you came today, and I want to thank you for supporting
a really fine soul, in Heather Wilson. (Applause.)